HEFLIN, Ala. — Peyton Thetford straddles two Americas.
Inside the intensive care unit at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, the 27-year-old nurse has witnessed a dramatic uptick in new COVID-19 patients struggling to breathe. But after grueling 12-hour shifts — moving patients from their backs to their stomachs and then turning them onto their sides every two hours to keep their oxygen levels up — he leaves the hospital and sees hardly anyone wearing masks or practicing social distancing.
“It’s kind of like the movie ‘Groundhog Day,’ where you wake up and everything’s the exact same and you can’t do anything to change it,” he said. “You’re just coming to work and watching people die.”